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This Week

Culture worthy of your calendar

Josh Garrick

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It's Third Thursday!

You definitely want to check out the "once-a-month" celebration of fine art that takes place on the third Thursday of each month when the art galleries of downtown Orlando bring us new exhibits to view and enjoy. The evening is one continuous party with anchors at the CityArts Factory (corner of Orange and Pine) and the Gallery at Avalon Island (corner of Magnolia and Pine). The Galleries could not be more welcoming, and you don't need to remember any of your Art History 101 to have a good time. The exhibits open March 18 at 6 p.m. and will be available for viewing until next month's Third Thursday event.

Among the artists exhibiting this evening, one of my favorites — Brigan Gresh — will open her solo show at the CityArts Factory. Her new works are large mixed-media canvases on which she examines "the moment when light and dark meet." Her opening is March 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Keep your eyes open for the white signs all around Downtown Orlando. In this economy, you'll be surprised at the variety of spaces where artists find an empty wall on which to hang — and hopefully sell — their work.

Ballet Battle of the Sexes!

The Orlando Ballet continues to re-invent itself under the inspired and forward-thinking direction of Artistic Director Robert Hill. The title of this weekend's performances is your first clue that this is not your grandmother's ballet company. The performances coming up March 19, 20 and 21 promise world-premiere choreography and some serious "body-body" dancing. Called "Battle of the Sexes," these performances are bold, sensual and proud to showcase the dancers' athletic prowess.

Each performance includes 14 works with music by artists as varied as Shirley Bassey, George Michael, Frank Sinatra and Grace Jones, among others. The concept behind "Battle of the Sexes" comes from Robert Hill, who possesses the ability to create ballets that work to introduce new audiences to the medium. He says, "We aim to present an exciting, provocative show which will intrigue ballet patrons — from season-ticket holders to first-time audience members. Some describe it as 'bringing sexy back.' I say it's proving sexy is already here — in dance!" For tickets or information, call 407-426-1739 or visit orlandoballet.org.

Orlando Shakespeare's Playfest

We have so many reasons to be proud of our local Shakespeare company. Anyone who saw the company's recent (brilliant) production of Hamlet can attest to that. Now "Shakes" is providing us with another source of pride in the first week of April in a Festival of new plays the company calls Playfest — The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays. Running from April 2 through April 11, the Festival includes performances, workshops, panels and play readings as well as a keynote event featuring Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman will take part in an "Inside the Actors Studio" type of interview with Artistic Director Jim Helsinger during an event set for Saturday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m.

And there's more: The theater is presenting the "National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere" of the play "Shotgun" by John Biguenet. Shotgun takes place in New Orleans four months after Katrina. Other titles including "The Weird Sisters," "Glassheart," "Once a Marine," "Citizen Eve," and "Time in Kafka" attest to the diversity of Playfest's offerings. You want something new and different? Then this is the festival for you. For a complete listing of plays and events, visit orlandoshakes.org. Call 407-447-1700 for tickets.

Goodbye UrbanThink!

Once again we get to blame the economy for the recent announcement that the much-loved UrbanThink! Bookstore will close at the end of March. What began as a small store in 2001 became a literary neighborhood institution offering books, events, and a real commitment to the culture of our community. The UrbanThink! legacy will continue in the UrbanThink! Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2008, which supports various community programs. To thank the community, UrbanThink! is holding a clearance sale with 35 percent off everything. Children's books, fiction, non-fiction … it's all priced to clear out the space. UrbanThink! is located at 625 E. Central Blvd in Orlando. Call 407-650-8004 for details.